United Utilities is a 12 months into its robotic course of automation (RPA) journey, which has seen the creation of a devoted staff to assist the corporate filter the know-how by way of all the enterprise.
The water firm, which serves north-west England, launched into its RPA journey in November 2017 after choosing Blue Prism as its software program provider. It has to date automated 20 processes by way of RPA, with one other 12 in improvement.
In accordance with Genevieve Wallace Dean, head of robots at United Utilities, that is simply the tip of the iceberg.
Wallace Dean, who has been with the organisation for 4 years, took on the function of creating a robotic course of automation functionality and went on to determine a digital automation staff. The staff of 10 focuses on RPA and app improvement.
It’s a part of the IT division, which is staffed by about 250 of United Utilities’ 5,000-strong workforce.
The digital automation operation led by Wallace Dean, which resembles a DevOps staff, hung out constructing an RPA supply infrastructure, together with coaching robots and folks, and defining the place the know-how might be most helpful.
Wallace Dean says the corporate has an operational technique geared in direction of system considering, so it will possibly perceive how modifications have an effect on the enterprise, in addition to complementary digital plans.
“A part of this was to make sure we weren’t a set of unbiased elements, however a single enterprise with an end-to-end system to ship to our clients. Know-how and digitisation are a key a part of that,” she provides.
RPA is without doubt one of the basis applied sciences of this technique.
Robots save time and increase accuracy
By January 2018, the corporate had automated its first course of by way of Blue Prism RPA.
This was the method of sending textual content messages to clients when an engineer is because of go to them. “The robots are going into our purposes and seeing who has an appointment and sending a textual content message out,” says Wallace Dean.
With about 200 messages despatched out per day, it beforehand took eight individuals, overlaying totally different areas, to work the method manually. Now, one robotic spends 30 minutes a day on this course of. The corporate estimates it has saved 2,000 hours in a 12 months by way of this challenge alone.
“Whereas time financial savings are straightforward to measure, the opposite advantages are elevated accuracy and logging, which means we’re sure the textual content messages have been despatched, after they have been despatched, and who to,” says Wallace Dean.
“The advantages usually are not simply time financial savings, however making the method sturdy. We all know the robots aren’t going to go on vacation or be off sick.”
“The advantages usually are not simply time financial savings, however making the method sturdy. We all know the robots aren’t going to go on vacation or be off sick”
Genevieve Wallace Dean, United Utilities
Regardless of the discount in guide processes, no cuts have been made to the workforce. “It has enabled the brokers who would have been sending these texts to spend extra time partaking with the shoppers,” says Wallace Dean. “Slicing the workforce has by no means been an goal of RPA. If there’s a process that doesn’t want intelligence and enterprise information, automation is utilized to it.”
Automation has additionally been utilized to the method the place clients request to have their water utilization metered.
Prospects on an unmetered tariff can apply for a free water meter. United Utilities calculates whether or not they are going to be higher off with a meter in keeping with the dimensions of the home and the variety of occupants. That is now automated by way of RPA.
That is an instance of a course of that has spikes in demand which make it troublesome to make use of the appropriate variety of human assets. “Robots settle for the purposes, do the calculations after which progress the purposes,” says Wallace Dean. “We put extra robots on the job after we get spikes in demand, fairly than the enterprise being impacted by having to make use of human assets.”
Robots detect and resolve faults
Past utilizing robots to make buyer providers and processing extra environment friendly, United Utilities can also be making use of the know-how to fault detection and determination.
With Water Corporations desperate to cease water leakage, figuring out issues early is important.
“Robots will be utilized nearly wherever, and we’re getting them to do extra predictive work and monitoring extra constantly, fairly than scheduled processes, and we’re at present engaged on a proof of idea,” says Wallace Dean.
If this proves worthwhile, United Utilities will enhance the variety of robots it has. One robotic provides 24-hour capability.
The corporate began with 10 robots, which is sufficient for now, in keeping with Wallace Dean. However she predicts higher robotic capability might be required because it strikes extra into the monitoring area, the place issues are checked as typically as each 30 seconds.
RPA makes reporting of operational information extra environment friendly
One other space the place vital efficiencies have been gained by way of RPA is in reporting operational information. The reporting of operational information was beforehand carried out by eight individuals, contributing to a report that’s produced 4 instances a day. This took 720 minutes of guide effort every day. It’s now automated by way of RPA and takes simply 32 minutes a day.
The worth of this was displayed throughout a interval of dry climate in the summertime of 2018. The organisation needed to monitor and report on operations extra typically and elevated the variety of reviews to 9 per day. RPA enabled it to do that with out having to herald extra individuals.
Figuring out additional RPA purposes
Wallace Dean says the central staff is necessary to assist the enterprise-wide technique, however provides that folks within the enterprise models are ideally positioned to assist take RPA deeper.
She says there was a optimistic response by employees to their new digital colleagues.
“We’ve needed to undergo a studying curve, as it’s one thing new that we have now launched, however as soon as the person groups have seen the processes go dwell they perceive it,” says Wallace Dean.
“This has been key for me and my staff as a result of we wish to exit and construct relationships throughout the enterprise as a result of these are the individuals who can determine processes to be automated,” she provides. “Discovering good alternatives for automation is the most important problem.”
Mature, high-volume and repetitive processes are sometimes the perfect suited to automation, in keeping with Wallace Dean.
“It’s as much as individuals within the enterprise to place their palms up and say, ‘I feel I’ve one thing right here’,” she says. “It’s all about enterprise engagement. Whereas we implement RPA for processes in sure departments, they normally give you different concepts.”
Blue Prism was United Utilities’ provider of selection as a result of the know-how was extra than simply drag and drop, providing enterprise automation. It was additionally a profit that Blue Prism is headquartered in north-west England.